27 Graduated the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Programs’s Education Phase at UCF Business Incubator, Enter Next Phase of Statewide Initiative

ORLANDO, Fla. – Directors of The UCF Business Incubation Program, in partnership with the statewide Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program  recently presented graduation certificates to 27 military veterans, which concluded Phase 1 of the program providing free counseling, mentoring and training to veterans who want to launch and grow their own business.

The entrepreneurs learned to apply innovative strategies to design, pivot and build their businesses quickly and efficiently using the Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup Methodology.

“The first graduates are on the way to the next level of their business,” said Ricardo Garcia, government resource manager of the UCF Business Incubation Program. And the training doesn’t stop there he said.  Phase 2 of the Veterans Florida program continues with ongoing monthly mentoring and access to workshops to steer the veteran entrepreneurs toward business success.

Graduation day included a pitch competition among the veteran entrepreneurs who were categorized into three separate tiers – (1) Idea/Concept, (2) Startup, and (3) Growth stage.  The winner in each category received a one-year membership in the UCF Business Incubation Program valued at over $4,000.

Those who had an idea for a business got seriously focused, are now on track fine tuning their business plans, researching the competition and reaching out to potential customers; those in the startup phase are preparing to launch their enterprises, and the growth stage businesses who are already in revenue with some employees are ready to scale—become sustainable businesses while they expand.  They were extremely grateful for the tremendous opportunity to participate in the program.

Retired Air Force Veteran Derick Bugg, the runner up in the Concept/Idea category of the pitch competition, is now designing a business plan.  He’s worked with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 17 years and is developing a business called The Bugg Ranch of Personal Development and Consultation.  “I would never have gotten this focused so quickly had it not been for this class and particularly the classmates.  They basically validated the concept.”

“Peer mentoring was an interesting phenomenon in the class. Veterans who were further along in their businesses shared insight about hurdles they encountered and how they overcame them, a big benefit for those in the concept and startup stages,” Garcia said. “At the same time veterans with a business in the growth stage like Neeld Wilson with Gator Engineering & Aquifer Restoration, benefitted by working on the business instead of in the business—an opportunity to think about strategy and think outside the box.”

It’s no wonder that owning and operating a business can be a good fit for those who are used to systems, structure, hard work, teamwork and day to day challenges.  Their learned leadership skills and work ethic are essential for stable businesses that fill a need in the community.

“All those who entered the pitch competition were great and  the panel of judges had a hard decision in selecting the best presentations.  The most important thing is we planted 27 seeds that we are confident will sprout and grow – maybe at different rates, but they will grow,” said Garcia.

“Our team of mentors within the UCF Business Incubation Program plans to keep the Veterans Entrepreneurship initiative going and thriving, and we are always eager to hear from companies  interested in supporting veteran entrepreneurs as they launch and grow businesses while creating jobs and growth in Central Florida.”

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For more information, contact

Ricardo Garcia, Government Resources Manager, UCF Business Incubation Program, 407-823-2346 Ricardo.Garcia@ucf.edu

Rafael Caamano, Associate Director UCF Business Incubation Program Rafael.caamano@ucf.edu

Gordon Hogan, Director, UCF Business Incubation Program, 407-882-1577 Gordon.Hogan@ucf.edu

Beth Payan, Larry Vershel Communications Inc. 407-644-4142 Lvershelco@aol.com

About the UCF Business Incubation Program:

The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth / impact enterprises.   Since 1999, this award-winning program has helped hundreds of local startup companies reach their potential faster by providing vital business development resources.

With seven facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, and the cities of Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs.  Participating companies sustain more than 3,600 local jobs and have had a total impact of $1.51B on regional sales and $2.48B on regional economic output.  During the last fiscal year, the program has returned $7.95 for every $1.00 invested in the program.   For more information, visit www.incubator.ucf.edu